How to Preserve your Mother Tongue at Home When Living Abroad

Thouria Benferhat
3 min readDec 14, 2021
Children learn best at play…

Parents often ask: “What can I do to make sure my kids know and don’t forget our mother tongue?”.

Wherever you are, abroad, if you are not careful, your child will undoubtedly adopt the local language once in school, or even before. To avoid this, try the following:

  1. Speak your language at home:

You should be the primary source of language for your child. You are a resource that is available 24 hours so take advantage of that.

2. Keep languages separate; be strict:

If your spouse has a different mother tongue, make sure each one of you only speaks your mother tongue to the child.

3. Regularly speak with family and friends back home:

Speaking with family and friends back home on a regular basis gives the child a window into other contexts where the language is spoken.

4. Socialize with people who speak your language:

Make sure to invite friends who speak your language (they will surely invite you back :). This creates situations where the language is spoken in a warm atmosphere, which is conducive to language acquisition.

5. Visit your home country often:

Visit your country as often as you can. After all, total immersion is the most effective way of learning a language.

6. Read in your language:

Read to your child in your language:

Not only does reading to your child create and opportunity for the child to hear the language and or read it, but it also creates an opportunity to speak the language, answering questions about the book or discussing topics or pictures in the book.

7. Children learn best at play:

Make sure to speak your language when playing with your child as children learn best at play.

8. Organize playdates with children who speak your language:

Make a point of planning as many play dates with children who speak your language as possible.

9. Watch TV and/or videos in your language:

Watching television programs or videos in your language provides a totally new corpus which will enrich your child’s vocabulary, not to speak of knowledge.

10. Only hire babysitters who speak your language:

When hiring a babysitter, try to only hire babysitters who speak your language as this creates additional language practice for your child.

11. Use positive reinforcement:

We all want to make sure our children are using the language correctly. We should however limit correction and concentrate on positive reinforcement.

12. Never give up:

All the above steps can be daunting, but it’s very important to keep in mind that this is the best way to give your child the gift of language before they grow up and have to go to school to learn it.

You may like my books, encouraging people of all ages to learn foreign languages:

Do you have any additional tips?